My Sous Chef, Maya Mike, has been an invaluable part of our team here at Chef Rob’s Gourmet Cafe for the past seven years. To avoid confusion among the four Mikes working with us at the time, we affectionately bestowed the honorary name ‘Maya Mike’ upon him. He wears the name with pride, and even in his own village, he is known by that endearing title now.
Maya Mike comes from a highly respected traditional Mayan family in Silver Creek village, Belize. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting his family multiple times, and they are genuinely the kindest and most helpful people one could ever meet.
Several years ago, we began a tradition where Mike brings his mom and wife to Parrot Cove Lodge, to take over my kitchen, and together, they prepare a traditional Mayan meal with Conchita Pibil as the star dish. It’s a joyous sight to witness the family working harmoniously, creating incredible food.
One of the highlights of this event is the Pibil, a whole pig marinated in sour orange and red annatto seeds, among other spices. The pig is then wrapped in plantain leaves and slow-cooked in an oven created by digging a hole in the sand and starting a fire. This slow cooking process lasts a minimum of 12 hours, and during the evening event, we unveil the succulent pig, serving it to our guests. Alongside this delicacy, we serve freshly hand-made tortillas and a wonderful array of salsas and side dishes.
Through the years, this yearly event has become one of the most anticipated nights for our guests. The flavors of Mayan cuisine are often underestimated, and I’ve been encouraging Mike to document his family’s recipes to ensure they don’t get lost in the generations to come. So far, my efforts to persuade him haven’t worked out yet.
If you happen to meet Maya Mike, I kindly ask you to join me in encouraging him to preserve his family’s culinary legacy by documenting the recipes. They are invaluable pieces of cultural heritage that deserve to be documented and shared.